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Coronavirus live updates: Ohio State University researchers discover new variant

Ovidiu Dugulan/iStock
Ovidiu Dugulan/iStock

By MORGAN WINSOR, ERIN SCHUMAKER and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now infected more than 91.7 million people worldwide and killed over 1.96 million of them, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Jan 13, 8:41 pm
Nearly all US metro areas ‘in full resurgence’: White House task force

Nearly all U.S. metro areas with over 500,000 people are in “full resurgence” of COVID-19, the White House coronavirus task force said in its latest report, obtained by ABC News Wednesday.

In the report, dated Jan. 10, the task force said the fall/winter surge has had nearly twice the rate of rise in COVID-19 cases as the spring and summer surges.

Several states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico and South Carolina, are also in “full pandemic resurgence,” the report stated.

Only “aggressive mitigation” can “match a more aggressive virus,” and Americans must take more precautions, “moving beyond what worked in the summer to more layered mitigation,” the report stated.

The task force recommended uniform mask implementation and “strict physical distancing.” Without that, “epidemics could quickly worsen as more transmissible variants spread and become predominant,” it warned.

ABC News’ Josh Margolin and Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

Jan 13, 8:07 pm
US daily COVID deaths surpass 4,000 for 2nd day in a row

The U.S. reported 4,022 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

That marks the second day in a row the daily death toll crossed 4,000, and the third time since Jan. 7, based on the tracker’s tally.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths is up by 10% or more in 26 states as of Wednesday compared to the previous week, according to the tracker.

The U.S. also reported 219,090 new cases Wednesday, and 130,383 people are currently hospitalized with the virus.

Jan 13, 7:49 pm
Mississippi runs out of COVID-19 vaccine supply

Mississippi has allotted its entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines and doesn’t expect more doses until mid-February, the state health department announced Wednesday.

“Neither the county health department drive-through sites, nor the [University of Mississippi Medical Center] vaccine scheduling website was designed to accommodate the monumental surge we are currently experiencing,” the Mississippi State Department of Health said in a statement. “At this time, we have no additional vaccine, and every appointment is tied to an actual vaccination.”

New appointments are expected to resume after an anticipated vaccine resupply in mid-February, the department said.

On Tuesday, the state opened vaccine eligibility to people ages 65 and older and those with certain chronic health conditions, which led to an influx of calls to the state’s COVID-19 hotline, officials said. Previously, vaccinations were prioritized for health care workers, long-term care residents and those over the age of 75.
 
“We decided to open vaccines to many more people. We knew it would cause a rush, but believe it is more fair than having government arbitrarily limit access,” Gov. Tate Reeves said on Twitter Wednesday evening.

As of Tuesday, the state had administered 62,744 vaccinations over the last four weeks, Reeves said during a press briefing.

ABC News’ Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

Jan 13, 6:50 pm
Disneyland opens as mass vaccination site

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, opened as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site Wednesday.

About 3,000 people were expected to receive the vaccine on the first day, with about an hour-and-a-half wait time, county officials said. The site ultimately should be able to vaccinate over 7,000 people a day, Orange County First District Chairman Andrew Do said at a press briefing.

Vaccinations are by appointment only. Those without an appointment and proper identification will be turned away, the Orange County Health Care Agency warned repeatedly on Twitter Wednesday.

Over 10,000 people signed up for a slot within two hours of online registration opening on Tuesday, officials said. Disneyland has been closed to parkgoers since last spring.

Other mass vaccination sites are slated to open in the hard-hit state, including Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Cal Expo in Sacramento. Petco Park in San Diego also opened earlier this week as a vaccination site.

People in Phase 1A — health care workers and long-term care residents — currently have the highest priority to receive vaccines in California.

On Wednesday, the state announced that people 65 and older are also now eligible, in an effort to help speed up vaccine distribution.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

ABC News Abigail Shalawylo contributed to this report.

Jan 13, 6:10 pm
COVID cases at lowest levels in children: CDC

COVID-19 cases continue to be significantly lower in younger kids, even as some went back to school in-person, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The incidence of COVID-19 in children, particularly those ages 0 to 10, has been lower than that of young adults and adults throughout the entire second half of 2020, according to the CDC. The incidence of COVID-19 cases in kids was higher as the age increased.

While older teenagers and young adults saw a surge of cases near the beginning of the school year, this was not seen in younger kids, “suggesting that young adults might contribute more to community transmission than do younger children,” the report said.

Children also had significantly lower rates of hospitalizations, intensive care unit stays and death than adults, the study found.

Fewer COVID-19 tests are performed on children, so the actual incidence may be higher than the data that’s available.

Teacher and school employee transmission risk also were not included in the data.

The CDC continues to recommend strict mitigation strategies to prevent transmission in schools that are in-person.

-ABC News’ Dr. Rose Marie Leslie

Jan 13, 5:50 pm
Texas sets daily record for COVID-19 fatalities

Texas reported a record number of daily COVID-19 fatalities on Wednesday.

There were 405 new deaths, based on state health department data.

The state also reported 26,808 new and probable cases and 14,106 current hospitalizations.

Late Tuesday, Texas became the second state to cross 2 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19, following California.

Jan 13, 4:33 pm
California, New Jersey expand vaccine eligibility

California and New Jersey officials on Wednesday announced new groups eligible for the vaccine.

In New Jersey, beginning Thursday, all residents ages 65 and above will be eligible, as well as people between the ages of 16 and 64 with medical conditions defined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

“This is folks with chronic, real-time health challenges,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

The CDC defines those as: cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, obesity and severe obesity, sickle cell disease, smoking, type 2 diabetes mellitus, pregnancy and heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies.

“Smoking puts you at significant risk for an adverse result from COVID-19 and there are 2 million smokers in New Jersey that fit into this category,” said Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli.

In California, people ages 65 and older are the next group eligible to get vaccinated.

“With our hospitals crowded and ICUs full, we need to focus on vaccinating Californians who are at highest risk of becoming hospitalized to alleviate stress on our health care facilities,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer, said in a statement.

ABC News’ Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

Jan 13, 1:09 pm
Ohio State researchers identify 2 new variants

Researchers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center said Wednesday that they’ve have identified two new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The first variant, which was found in just one person, contains a mutation that’s similar to a mutation seen in the variants from the U.K. and South Africa, but it arose independently in the U.S., the researchers said. It is not known if it is more easily transmissible.

The second newly identified variant was found in about 20 patients in Columbus and also arose independently in the U.S., the researchers said. It does not contain any mutations in common with variants identified in the U.K. or South Africa, they said. Scientists said they found cases of this variant with increased frequency during late December, which could imply that it’s more easily transmissible, but they emphasized that more studies are needed.

Peter Mohler, a co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at the Wexner Medical Center, said Wednesday, “we’re not ready to overreact,” stressing, “this is very normal for a virus to mutate.”

Jan 13, 12:33 pm
Tuesday death toll equaled 1 American dying every 20 seconds

With 4,327 confirmed deaths on Tuesday — the deadliest day of the pandemic so far — Tuesday’s death toll equaled about one American dying every 20 seconds.

The national average of daily cases is also at a record high, with 246,000 new cases every day.

In the last week, 22 states and Washington, D.C., have reported a record seven-day average of daily cases.
 
Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 22.8 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 — meaning about one in every 14 Americans has tested positive.

California has the most hospitalizations of any state with more than 22,000 patients, followed by Texas, New York, Florida and Georgia.

Arizona, Alabama and Nevada currently hold the highest hospitalizations rates per million people in the country.

Jan 13, 11:38 am
NYC mayor calls for UK travel ban

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for “an immediate travel ban from the United Kingdom to the United States.”

New York state has 12 cases of the U.K. coronavirus variant, de Blasio said. One of the two cases confirmed in New York City was someone who traveled to the U.K., he said.

“Someone who was in the U.K. has brought the variant back here. We need that stopped. Flights from the United Kingdom should be canceled immediately by the federal government,” de Blasio said.

Beginning Jan. 26, those flying to the U.S. from foreign countries must take a COVID-19 test within three days before their flight, and airlines must confirm the negative test before they board, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

Meanwhile, as New York vaccinates more residents, the mayor said, “even with normal supplies that we expect to have delivered next week, we will run out of vaccine as some point next week unless we get a major new resupply because so many New Yorkers want the vaccine and we have the ability to give it to them.”

“We need the federal government, the state government and the manufactures to step up and get us more supply immediately,” he said.

Jan 13, 10:58 am
Vatican launches COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Vatican City, an independent enclave surrounded by Rome that serves as the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Wednesday, according to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.

Citizens of the tiny city-state along with employees and pensioners will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, as well as family members who are entitled to use of the Vatican health care system. Priority is being given to health care workers, public safety personnel, the elderly and individuals who are most frequently in contact with the public, Bruni said.

It’s unclear which COVID-19 vaccine the Vatican is using and how many doses have been procured so far. The city-state has a population of only around 800 people but employs more than 4,000.

The vaccination campaign is voluntary, and people under the age of 18 are being excluded for the time being, according to Bruni.

Pope Francis, who turned 84 last month and had part of a lung removed when he was younger, has said he plans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Since the start of the pandemic, Vatican City has reported at least 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Jan 13, 10:05 am
Ohio State University researchers discover new variant

Scientists at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine announced Wednesday that they have discovered a new variant of the novel coronavirus.

The new strain carries a mutation identical to the variant that was discovered in the United Kingdom late last year, but researchers said it likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States. The researchers also reported the evolution of another U.S. strain that acquired three other gene mutations not previously seen together in SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a press release.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been sequencing the genome of SARS-Cov-2 viruses in patients with COVID-19 since March to monitor the evolution. The new variant was found in one patient from Ohio, and researchers do not yet know the prevalence of the strain in the population, according to the press release.

Meanwhile, the evolving strain with the three new mutations has become the dominant virus in the state’s capital, Columbus, during a three-week period in late December and January.

“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” Dr. Dan Jones, the study’s leader and vice chair of the Ohio State University’s division of molecular pathology, said in a statement. “We know this shift didn’t come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus.”

Like the U.K. strain, researchers said the mutations in the Columbus strain are likely to make the virus more infectious.

“At this point, we have no data to believe that these mutations will have any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines now in use,” said Peter Mohler, a co-author of the study, chief scientific officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and vice dean for research at the College of Medicine. “It’s important that we don’t overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data.”

The researchers will hold a press conference on the matter later Wednesday, according to the press release.

Jan 13, 6:24 am
Japan declares state of emergency in seven more prefectures

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in seven additional areas on Wednesday, as COVID-19 cases continued to climb.

The latest state of emergency was declared for the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi, Gifu, Fukuoka, and Tochigi.

The move comes one week after Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures due to rising infections and a growing death toll.

A state of emergency declaration gives the governors of those respective regions the authority to ask residents for cooperation in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. There are currently no legal ramifications for non-compliance.

Under the state of emergency, which takes immediate effect and is expected to end Feb. 7 for all 11 prefectures, Suga said governors will ask residents to refrain from dining out and to stay home after 8 p.m. unless for essential reasons. They will also ask companies to decrease the number of employees commuting to work by 70%.

Suga said bars and restaurants will be asked to stop serving alcohol by 7 p.m. and to close by 8 p.m. Governors may disclose the name of the businesses that don’t comply, while those that do will be given 1.8 million Japanese yen ($17,000) per month.

Spectator events will be limited to an audience of 5,000 people. Schools will not be asked to close, according to Suga.

Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, declared a nationwide state of emergency relatively early in the pandemic in April, which lasted for a month. At that time, residents were asked to reduce person-to-person contact by 80% and to practice “jishuku,” or “self-restraint,” by staying at home and closing non-essential businesses.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare registered 4,521 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as 51 additional deaths from the disease on Tuesday, bringing the country’s cumulative total to 295,257 cases with at least 4,144 deaths.

Jan 13, 4:42 am
US sees deadliest day yet from COVID-19

There were a record 4,327 new deaths from COVID-19 registered in the United States on Tuesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Tuesday’s tally overtakes the country’s previous all-time high of 4,194 fatalities from the disease, which were registered on Jan. 7, Johns Hopkins data shows.

An additional 215,805 new cases of COVID-19 were also confirmed nationwide on Tuesday, down from a peak of 302,506 newly confirmed infections on Jan. 2. It’s the eighth consecutive day that the country has reported more than 200,000 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins data.

COVID-19 data may be skewed due to possible lags in reporting over the holidays followed by a potentially very large backlog.

A total of 22,846,808 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 380,796 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins data. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of the pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up over the summer.

The numbers lingered around 40,000 to 50,000 from mid-August through early October before surging again to record levels, crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4, then reaching 200,000 on Nov. 27 before topping 300,000 on Jan. 2.

Jan 13, 3:57 am
Texas surpasses two million total cases

Texas has become the second U.S. state to have a total of more than two million diagnosed cases of COVID-19.

The Lone Star state surpassed the grim milestone late Tuesday, with a cumulative tally of 2,014,645 confirmed cases. California currently has 2,795,978, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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